Environmental organisations are suing Albanian authorities for control over the contract for the construction of the Vlora airport, citing the building work threatens vital wetlands and biodiverse areas.
An alliance between the Albanian Ornithological Society and Protection and Preservation of the Natural Environment in Albania has filed a suit at Tirana Administrative Court, challenging the contract to build the Vlora airport in the south-western city of Vlora.
“The illegal construction works lie within one of the most important wetlands and biodiversity areas in Albania and along the Adriatic flyway, an important flyway for many migratory birds,” said the organisations in a statement.
“By continuing with the development plans, the Albanian authorities are violating national laws and international conventions, bypassing procedures, and rejecting the opposing remarks of international institutions,” they added.
Both the Albanian Ornithological Society and Protection and Preservation of the Natural Environment in Albania allege that the contract, of which implementation is already underway, will cause irreparable environmental damage. The group is supported by the Germany-based conservation NGO EuroNatur.
Environmental activists argue that the Vjosa-Narta Protected Area is one the most important ecological ecosystems remaining in Albania. They are also the second most important wetlands in the country, serving as a habitat for many important fauna and flora species.
The contract to build the Vlora airport is currently held between Albanian authorities and two other companies: Turkey’s YDA, which built a hospital in the city of Fier, and Mabatex, owned by Kosovar politician and businessman Behgjet Pacolli.
More than 30 local and international environmental organisations called on the Albanian government to halt the airport project in February 2021, arguing that it threatens to cause major damage to the Vjose-Narte protected area. The groups said the protected area is home to 200 wild bird species, 33 of which are endangered species.
Meanwhile, private companies have invested some 104 millions euros in the project, according to Prime Minister Edi Rama. Tender documents show that taxpayers will have to foot the bill for 138 million, or 40 percent of the cost of construction, if the project fails or does not turn a profit.
Albania currently has two international airports: one in Tirana, and another in the northern city of Kukes. The government has reasoned that a third international airport in Vlora is necessary to develop transportation connections to areas in the country’s south.
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